Jobs on the up: dole queue shortens in Q2

Employment figures released today by the ONS show that the number of people signing on fell by 65,000 in the three months to the end of May.

by Michael Northcott
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013

Adding to this week’s little flurry of positive news about the UK economy, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) today announced that the number of people out of work fell 0.2% to 2.58m in May, down to 8.1% of the ‘economically active population.’ The fall is not huge, but it is accompanied by a falling inactivity rate (down 0.2% to 9.2m) and a 1.5% increase in total pay compared with last year. That’s a lot of fiddly little figures, but the gist is that we’re seeing gradual improvement. 

But it might be too early to break out the Tizer. The report also said there are 218,000 fewer people in work now than there were at the pre-recession peak in 2008. And also that the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance rose by 6,100 to 1.6 million in June alone. But if the UK can manage four more similar quarters of falling unemployment, the labour market will be roughly back to where it was before this ungodly mess of an economic crisis got going. Not to mention that regular pay (which excludes bonuses) increased by 1.8%, getting closer to the 2.4% rate of inflation – the squeeze on wallets could be near an end…

Obviously, the situation remains tricky. With 2.58 million able people still out of work, that’s a lot of unemployment benefit coming out of the ever-emptying government coffers. And since the eurozone debt crisis hasn’t yet stopped bubbling away, there’s no knowing whether falling unemployment in the UK could just be a blip in an otherwise downward trajectory. Bear in mind that the number of long-term unemployed (people out of work for more than two years) rose 18,000 in the quarter to 441,000, which is the highest since 1997.

Still, we’ve got the Olympics on the way, and tourist spending may help bolster the economy for the summer. Here’s hoping we can sprint out of recession come Q3, and get some more people off the dole while we’re at it…


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